Time tuck for trolley

Trolley to operate on a reduced schedule from June through August.

Starting June 24, Ladysmith’s trolley will run on reduced hours for its final months of service.

The trolley will run Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from June 24 until Aug. 31.

These hours were announced May 21 after Ladysmith council had voted to run the trolley for five days at reduced hours during a special council meeting May 13.

As part of its budget discussions in April, Ladysmith council looked at eliminating the trolley service until BC Transit comes to town Sept. 1 or operating the trolley on reduced hours of operation during the summer. At the time, council considered reducing the trolley to three days per week during the summer but ultimately decided to keep service as is. At the May 13 meeting, Mayor Rob Hutchins asked council to reconsider this idea of reducing trolley service in light of additional information around ridership.

Council had asked staff to provide options for the continued operation of the trolley for the summer months before the service ends on Aug. 31 and BC Transit comes to Ladysmith.

A staff report received May 13 showed that in 2012, 4,022 riders took the trolley from June to August. This is down from the 6,623 riders during that same period in 2011 and 6,641 riders in 2010. Staff’s information showed that from June to August 2012, volume increases 25 to 35 per cent on Fridays compared to other days of the week, but otherwise, there does not seem to be a significant increase in daily traffic during particular days of the week.

Reducing the trolley to three days a week from June to August would save the Town about $14,000, according to staff, and infrastructure services director John Manson told council that running the trolley five days for six hours a day would be half the cost of running the trolley for the entire summer, so the savings would be similar to running a three-day service.

After some discussion, council decided to reduce the trolley service to five days a week with reduced hours. Coun. Bill Drysdale was the only councillor to vote against reducing the hours.

At the May 21 meeting, the trolley hours came up again, as councillors debated whether to begin the reduced hours earlier in June to take advantage of additional savings after Coun. Gord Horth put forward the idea, but the start date for the new hours remains June 24.

At the May 21 meeting, council also decided to direct staff to dispose of its newer trolley — Unit 103, a 2010 Supreme Bus Conversion with 180,000 kilometres — by offering the unit to another B.C. municipality.

The Town of Ladysmith currently owns two trolleys — Unit 103, and Unit 105, a 1989 Champlain Bus Conversion with 100,000 kilometers. Both units could be used for future rental service when the regular route is discontinued on Sept. 1, but staff is recommending the sale of the newer trolley because it is expected to sell for a higher value on the used vehicle market.

Trolley Unit 103 was partially funded using Gas Tax Funding, and if council sells the trolley to a local government, crown corporation or provincial or federal government, the Town will not be required to pay that money back.

City manager Ruth Malli says some municipalities have contacted the Town and expressed interest in the trolley, but staff needed direction from council to determine what the sale process would look like.

As for the funding arrangements for free or reduced-rate trolley rentals after Sept. 1, Manson explained that normal trolley rental rates will generally be designed to cover the cost of operating the trolley service on a periodic basis. The trolley currently rents out for $100 per hour, with a four-hour minimum rental. A 25-per-cent discount is offered for bona fide non-profit groups.

Staff is recommending that in situations where a request is made for a reduced trolley rate rental, the cost difference generally be allocated from council’s grants-in-aid budget so that the service can be run on a cost-recovery basis in the future.

“As the grants-in-aid budget is set for 2013, it is recommended that the cost savings for reducing the hours of operation be transferred to the grants-in-aid budget to fund such requests,” said Manson.